Closely related to the superfood carrot and wonderful herb parsley, parsnips can sometimes be overlooked in the health food department. Parsnips tend to have a taste that’s similar to the carrot, but is a bit starchier in the way that plantains and bananas aren’t quite the same. Some people prefer to eat parsnips raw like you would a carrot, but most will end up cooking them, with boiling be the preferred method of preparation.
While carrots are a great addition to your diet, you might want to consider getting more parsnips in there, as well. Parsnips are among the foods that bring the most overall nutrition without side effects (as long as you’re not allergic to the leaves). Parsnips are relatively new to western culture, but will hopefully become more common in the future. To see why, let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown and proven health benefits that you get from eating parsnips.
Nutrition of Parsnips
Parsnips make for a great snack or addition to a meal for many reasons, starting with the relatively low calorie count. There are 100 calories in each serving, but that’s an entire cup of slices that comes out to more than four ounces. That serving size gets you nearly two grams of protein, and more than a quarter of your day’s worth of dietary fiber. In terms of vitamins, you’re getting nearly 40 percent of your daily value for both vitamin C and vitamin K.
There’s also more than 20 percent of your daily folate recommendation and 10 percent of your vitamin E needs. Other significant vitamins in parsnips include thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid. Manganese is the big mineral here, with about 40 percent daily value. Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper all check in around 10 percent, while calcium, iron, zinc and selenium are around five percent. There is very little fat (less than half a gram) in each serving of parsnips, with no cholesterol.
There aren’t too many foods where you can find a high level of manganese, especially getting close to half of your daily recommendation. Parsnips are one of those rare foods that provide a manganese boost, which is essential for your bone health. Manganese is used by the body to develop bones at a young age, and maintain bone density throughout your life. People of all ages should be getting manganese in their diets to protect bone health.
As people get older, much of that bone density can be lost, but not if you get enough manganese. Researchers have found that people who have a diet with the proper manganese level drastically reduce their chances of osteoporosis and fractures. This is especially true in women that are going through menopause, as they are the most affected group in terms of osteoporosis diagnoses.
A Parsnip a Day
Another nutrient that can be found in spades with parsnips is vitamin C, which is the building block to a healthy immune system. With about 40 percent of your daily recommendation, parsnips can help your body produce more white blood cells that will attack foreign invaders that cause the common cold or flu. Not just that, but you can prevent life threatening illnesses down the road.
The reason behind that is that the minerals found within parsnips work as antioxidants that can fight off free radicals. These free radicals attack the cells’ DNA in your body, which causes diseases such as cancer. Sure, there are foods that are higher in vitamin C than parsnips, but they tend to only be high in that one particular vitamin while parsnips offer a much wider range of nutrition.
Good For the Heart
Another one of those vitamins that parsnips have plenty of is vitamin K. Vitamin K also plays a big part in your bone health by allowing the body to absorb calcium, but also assists in heart health. Studies show that getting enough vitamin K can reduce your chances of heart disease by nearly 10 percent. On top of that, parsnips contain helpful minerals such as potassium to further strengthen the heart.
When you get enough potassium in your system, your heart vessels won’t be under as much stress. In turn, you’re likely to see a regulation in blood pressure and a raise in the homocysteine levels that prevent heart disease. With no saturated fats and cholesterol in parsnips, you’re getting an overall great food for your heart health without any of the negatives such as too much sodium.
To further show that parsnips are a well-rounded food, you’re also getting nearly 30 percent of your daily recommendation for fiber. Fiber helps many aspects of your health (including your heart), but the immediate benefit comes in the digestive system. Eating more fiber in your diet creates more probiotics, which are helpful bacteria that eliminate the harmful ones. The harmful bacteria is likely to promote constipation, diarrhea, discomfort and irregularity.
Perhaps the biggest factor that fiber can help prevent is colon cancer. According to several different studies, people who get enough fiber reduce their chances of colon cancer by more than 10 percent. It’s also been shown that people who get enough fiber in their diets can greatly reduce their chances of diabetes, while those that already have diabetes can manage the disease easier.
Another benefit that you get from an improved digestive system and more fiber is the ability to manage your weight. An effective digestive system boosts your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories even while resting. If you’ve had a food high in fiber, you might have noticed that you feel fuller for longer. This is an effective tool if you’re trying to lose weight, as hunger can derail a diet quickly. As a nice bonus, parsnips don’t contain many calories per serving, so you can easily fit them into your daily budget when trying to drop a few pounds.
Summing it Up
Most foods that are even considered to be healthy (or “superfoods” if you will) tend to have some drawbacks. This is the case even if they are minor, and parsnips can be included in that list. Parsnips are among the vegetables that have been found to promote gas in your digestive system, which can cause some minor discomfort. Most people won’t even notice an increase as long as you’re eating a well-balanced diet.
Speaking of a well-balanced diet, parsnips alone can’t provide you with all of the daily nutrition that you need. Though there is plenty of nutrition found in parsnips, getting to 100 percent of your daily values in all vitamins and minerals will allow you to see total health benefits. As you can see, even the cons of eating more parsnips in your diet aren’t that bad at all, making them a great food to eat in your healthy diet, whether you eat them raw or boil them.